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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Psalms 144

 

 

Verses 1-15

Psalm 144

A Psalm of David

Blessed be the Lord my strength,

Which teacheth my hands to war,

And my fingers to fight:

2 My goodness, and my fortress;

My high tower, and my deliverer;

My shield, and he in whom I trust;

Who subdueth my people under me.

3 Lord, what is Prayer of Manasseh, that thou takest knowledge of him!

Or the son of Prayer of Manasseh, that thou makest account of him!

4 Man is like to vanity:

His days are as a shadow that passeth away.

5 Bow thy heavens, O Lord, and come down:

Touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

6 Cast forth lightning, and scatter them:

Shoot out thine arrows, and destroy them.

7 Send thine hand from above;

Rid me, and deliver me out of great waters,

From the hand of strange children;

8 Whose mouth speaketh vanity,

And their right hand is a right hand of falsehood.

9 I will sing a new song unto thee, O God:

Upon a psaltery and an instrument of ten strings will I sing praises unto thee.

10 It is he that giveth salvation unto kings:

Who delivereth David his servant from the hurtful sword.

11 Rid me, and deliver me from the hand of strange children,

Whose mouth speaketh vanity,

And their right hand is a right hand of falsehood:

12 That our sons may be as plants

Grown up in their youth;

That our daughters may be as corner stones,

Polished after the similitude of a palace:

13 That our garners may be full,

Affording all manner of store;

That our sheep may bring forth thousands

And ten thousands in our streets:

14 That our oxen may be strong to labor;

That there be no breaking in, nor going out;

That there be no complaining in our streets.

15 Happy is that people, that is in such a case:

Yea, happy is that people, whose God is the Lord.

EXEGETICAL AND CRITICAL

Contents and Composition.—The Psalmist, who evidently speaks as a king (see Psalm 144:2), begins by praising God for help experienced personally in various ways in battle and in distress ( Psalm 144:1-2). The recollection of the comforting truth that God does indeed in love take notice of perishing man ( Psalm 144:3-4) leads him to utter the prayer that God would personally display from heaven His irresistible power to deliver him from great peril prepared for him by powerful and faithless strangers ( Psalm 144:5-8). With this he connects a promise of a new song referring to God’s manner of dealing with David His servant both generally and specially, and then turns back to the prayer by repeating, like a refrain, the description of his enemies ( Psalm 144:9-11). The Chald. Paraphrase explains the evil sword ( Psalm 144:10) as being that of Goliath, and some manuscripts of the Sept. have as an addition to the superscription: in reference to Goliath. This event of David’s life may perhaps have given occasion to the poem; but it is doubtful whether it should be assigned to David himself (Hengst.), especially as the portion just discussed consists entirely of fragments of other Psalm, and is particularly rich in expressions found in Psalm 18. It is mere hypothesis to suppose that these verses were recorded in an ancient historical book and expressed the feelings with which David went into battle, being drawn from his declaration in 1 Samuel 17:27 (Del.). Theodoret already has referred it to the Maccabæan period, and Hitzig assigns it specially to Alexander Jannæus.—Attached to this first portion is a section ( Psalm 144:12-15) which is entirely dissimilar in thought, mode of expression, and linguistic character, and is connected with it loosely and perhaps violently by אשׁר, which is capable of so many meanings. This passage praises the prosperity of the people as a blessed result of their having Jehovah as their God. It appears to be a fragment of another Psalm whose origin is entirely unknown.

[Hengstenberg: “It is only the Psalm of David which form the ground-work of this. But that it is one of David’s peculiarities to derive from his earlier productions a foundation for new ones, is evident from a variety of facts, which, if any doubt might still be entertained on the subject, would obtain a firm ground to rest upon in this Psalm; for it can only be the work of David. Then the way and manner of the use made of such materials must be kept in view. This is always of a spirited and feeling nature; and no trace anywhere exists of a lifeless borrowing. That we cannot assume such borrowing here, that the appropriation of earlier materials did not proceed from spiritual impotence, but rests upon deeper grounds, is manifest if we consider the second part, where the dependence entirely ceases, and where the opponents of the Davidic authorship have not been able to overlook the strong poetical spirit of the time of David. They resort to the wretched expedient of affirming that the Psalmist had borrowed this portion from a much older poem now lost.”—Alexander: “The Davidic origin of the Psalm is as marked as that of any in the Psalter.” Noyes and Perowne are disinclined to follow the superscription. The rest of the English expositors, so far as I know, accept its authenticity.—J. F. M.]

[The connection between Psalm 144:1-4 is shown by Calvin. “David remembers all that God has done for him, and then, like Jacob, thinks: Lord, I am too little for all thy loving-kindness, and so contrasts his own nothingness and that of mankind generally with the greatness of such a gracious God.” With Psalm 144:5 comp. Psalm 18:10; Psalm 104:32. With Psalm 144:6, Psalm 18:15; 2 Samuel 22:15.—J. F. M.]

Psalm 144:7-11—It is worthy of remark that פָּצָה, which in Psalm 22:14; Psalm 66:16, is used of the gaping of the mouth, has here in Psalm 144:7 the meaning of snatching out [E. V.: rid], as in the Arabic and Aramaic. The right hand of falsehood [ Psalm 144:8] parallel to the tongue of falsehood ( Psalm 109:2) is the hand raised in taking a false oath. It alludes here to covenant-breaking. The designation Elohim, suddenly addressed to Jehovah in Psalm 144:9, is unusual in the last two books of the Psalter. [It occurs besides in Psalm 108. The second member of the verse should be translated: Upon a lyre of ten (strings) will I make music to Thee.—J. F. M.] The expression also in Psalm 144:10 : evil sword, is peculiar. It hardly means that the sword is employed in the service of an evil man (Delitzsch), but rather that it causes evil and misfortune. The mention of David in a Psalm ascribed to him follows the example of Psalm 18:51.

Psalm 144:12.—Both the peculiar contents and the expression of the following sentences, and the connection with the preceding by אשׁר, create difficulty. Following the contents of the passage, it is first mentioned that the children are thriving at home, that the fruits of the field and the herds of large and small cattle are flourishing, and that the inhabitants of the city are prosperous, and finally the people so situated are felicitated. It is in the highest degree improbable that Israel, whose God is Jehovah, in contrast to a nation rich in earthly blessings, Isaiah, in the last line, pronounced happy, and that therefore there is presented a contrast between individual prosperity and spiritual blessings. If we look at the passages which promise a blessing to the people of God, Deuteronomy 7:13; Deuteronomy 28:4; Deuteronomy 28:8; Deuteronomy 28:51, and compare also the description of the blessing in Psalm 92:13 f.; Psalm 128:2 f, we cannot doubt that the prosperity of Israel under the blessing of God is described here also. The several peculiar words and phrases cannot alter this actual relation. Consequently the relative is not to be referred to enemies=whose sons (Sept, et al.). Nor can we supply לֵאמֹר, and referring to the words of falsehood, Psalm 144:8; Psalm 144:11, regard the passage as quoting the terms in which the children of the world boast of their possessions (Geier, Clericus). On account of the structure of the sentence, it would be a very forced construction to refer the relative to God, who causes our sons to be, &c. So also with the assumption that the new song promised in Psalm 144:9 is given here (Venema, Köster). In this case we would have to strike out Psalm 144:11 (Olsh.), which, however, would be better than to change אֹשר into אֲֹאַשֵּׁר, I will pronounce happy (Doederlein, Dathe). Some expositors pass over this connecting word. It must be taken, however, as a relative conjunction, but not as meaning: that, in order that they may be so (Hengst. and most), as a consequence of the deliverance mentioned in Psalm 144:11, or as introducing a prayer, whether the word: grant, be supplied or not, but as meaning: because, since (Delitzsch, Hitzig), as supporting the prayer for deliverance. There is still, however, something harsh and forced in the transition to a passage so peculiar in contents and expression. It has therefore been conjectured that a later insertion has been made here (most of the moderns since Knapp), whether a gloss of a copyist (Hitzig), or an addition by the Psalmist himself (Maurer), or borrowed from some other composition, and here awkwardly attached by אֹשר (Hupfeld), or interpolated in some corruption of the text (Olsh, Kamphausen). [Hengstenberg gives the connection between this strophe and the preceding briefly, and in a manner satisfying to those who hold the Davidic authorship: “I thank Thee for the help which is assured to me through faith, Psalm 144:9-10. Nay more, deliver Thou me from the hands of the sons of strangers, and let Thy blessing return to rest upon Thy people, Psalm 144:11-14.”—J. F. M.]

The phrase grown up, of trees ( Isaiah 44:14) transferred to sons ( Isaiah 1:2; Isaiah 23:4; Hosea 9:12) represents the vigorous and well-proportioned growth to which the young men had attained. For youth is designated here by a word which excludes the idea of childhood. The rendering: projectures (Luther, Hengstenberg) instead of: corners ( Zechariah 9:15) cannot be justified. So with: corner-pillars (Geier and most), which sense has been assumed through a supposed reference to Caryatides, especially because it was supposed that the following word must have the meaning: hewn out. But חטב is employed everywhere (according to Wetzstein in Delitzsch) only of the preparation of fuel. Yet through the Arabic it may have the sense: streaked, variegated ( Proverbs 7:16). And, while the Syrian and Palestinian architecture, so far as known, exhibits no corner-pillars, corners with carved work of gay colors, are found at the present day in the reception-hall of every house of pretension in Damascus (Lane, Manners and Customs of the modern Egyptians, Psalm 50:11). Wetzstein inclines to the opinion that an architectural ornament of this kind, formed with much taste and elaborate workmanship out of carved wood, glistening with gold and brilliant colors, and covering the upper portion of the corner, is employed here to illustrate the beauty, brilliant attire, and rich ornaments of the women; perhaps, also, because they are not only modest and chaste, but are also, like the children of the upper class, concealed from sight.

Psalm 144:13-15. As many rare expressions occur here, it cannot appear surprising that in Psalm 144:14 the oxen are not named אֲלָפִים as in Psalm 8:8, but אַלּוּפִים, which in an older stage of the language, meant: princes. But it would be strange here to translate: our princes are set up (Maurer, Köster, Von Lengerke, Fürst) after Ezra 6:3, that is: are standing upright, as a sign of confidence and strength. The latter word means also strictly: burdened, not: strong for bearing burdens (Chald, Kimchi), or: laden with the abundance of produce (Hengstenberg), or: with fat and flesh, and therefore = fat and strong (Sept, Syr, Jerome, Geier, et al.) but laden with young, gravida (Bochart, J. H. Mich, and most of the recent expositors) The word therefore does not express capacity for work (Luther). In Psalm 144:13 bזַן does not mean: store, or provision (Geier, Venema, et al.), but is an Aramaic term denoting: class, kind. From class to class, i.e, of all kinds. The expressions for breach and falling out are so general, that they are not to be referred specially to miscarrying, (Syr, Kimchi), or to breaches in the folds where the flocks might break out (Sept, Geier), or to breaches in the city wall (Aben Ezra, Calvin, Hupf.), and losses in war (De Wette), but to injury and deficiency, misfortune and loss generally.—[The author’s translation of Psalm 144:13-14, accordingly is: Our garners full, supplying of all kinds, our sheep multiplying by thousands, by tens of thousands in our pastures; our cattle laden (with young); no breach and no falling off, and no cry of complaint in our streets.—J. F. M.] On the last line the combination of the shortened form שׁ of the relative with the qua-driliteral into one word is remarkable. There is no ground for taking the copula adversatively: but (Luther). The expression שֶׁכָּכָה is found also in Sol. Song of Solomon 5:9.

HOMILETICAL AND PRACTICAL

It is not an unessential matter to a people how its king stands with relation to God the Lord, nor to a king, whether he has religious and obedient subjects.—Even temporal blessings come from the living God of revelation; but for a man to have God Himself as his God, is the highest privilege and an eternal good.—To consider seriously what God is and what we are, begets humility, but also trust in God.

Starke: Pious soldiers learn best how to fight in the school of the Holy Spirit.—By protection and victory over our enemies, God’s glory is well-extended.—Christ wars and triumphs in His believers.—It is a great favor of God to have respect, fear, and obedience in subjects. When He is angry He poureth contempt upon princes.—To know our human nothingness rightly, gives us humility. Assiduous meditation upon God’s infinite pre-eminence is the best means of gaining this object. Where God takes from man as His own possession what a man possesses, nothing but a shadow remains; therefore the glory belongs to God in whatever a man is or has.—The help of the Christian must come from heaven, either through means or without them.—Every doctrine which has not in view God’s honor and man’s blessedness is false.—Thoughts, words, demeanor, works, all must accord in the praise of God, must sound forth nothing but Christ, and extol His victory and blessing.—The external prosperity of the true Church and of a country depends upon the continuance of pious kings and religious rulers.—A pious and grateful heart does not take into account the Divine benefits which have been experienced by itself alone, but also those which He has bestowed upon others, and thanks Him for both.—According as faith is in the heart, so is also the life directed.—The blessing of many children is a great gift of God, and an ornament to a house, especially if they follow after the fear of God and virtue.—Daughters that are trifling, vain, and decked out after the fashion of the world, are like fair palaces in which the world dwells, and not God.—He who seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, will receive from Him just as much as He knows will be profitable for him.—The prosperity of the ungodly is like glass; when it seems clearest it breaks; but the prosperity of the righteous will endure; for it rests on a good foundation.—The true happiness of men consists in their union and communion with God in Christ.

Frisch: God, thy friend, is great in counsel, and mighty in working.—Rieger: It is easy to say in dejection: Man is as nothing! But it is better to do so in humility; in humility which then does not hide itself away, but clings to the gracious hand of God in Christ, held out to the upright.—Diedrich: If God’s people are still in conflict with malignant enemies, they have still the victory and all blessings.—Taube: It is the depth of Divine condescension towards the son of the dust, which gives him to discover the glory of grace in its clearest light.

[Matt. Henry: Wherever a believer goes he carries his protection along with him.—Man’s days have little substance in them, considering how many of the thoughts and cares of an immortal soul are employed about a poor, dying body; they are as a shadow, dark and flitting, and finishing with the sun, and when that sets, resolving itself into all shadow.—Living plentifully, we should not live luxuriously, for then we abuse our plenty, but cheerfully and usefully, that, having abundance, we may be thankful to God, generous to our friends, and charitable to the poor. Otherwise what profit is it to have our garners full? James 5:3.—National piety commonly brings national prosperity, for nations, as such, are capable of rewards and punishments only in this life.—Happy is the people that have God’s favor, and love, and grace, according to the tenor of the covenant, though they have not abundance of this world’s goods. As all this and much more, cannot make us happy, unless the Lord be our God; so the want of this, the loss of this, nay, the reverse of this, cannot make us miserable if He be.—Bp. Horne: The righteous are distinguished from the wicked by the use which they make of the good things of this life when given, and by their meek resignation of them when taken away.—Whatever be the will of God concerning our having or wanting these outward comforts, we know that we have, as the faithful servants of God have had in every age before us, greater and more precious promises, a better and more enduring substance, pleasures that fade not, and riches that fly not away, reserved for us in a heavenly country, and a city which hath foundations.—Scott: Happy are they whom the Lord teaches to fight the good fight of faith, and to whom He gives that noblest victory and rule, the conquest and dominion over their own spirits!—The daughters of this land are indeed sufficiently polished, with exterior beauty and embellishment and every superficial accomplishment; but few of them have the polishing of a corner-stone, as qualifying them to be the ornament of families, the cement of society, and a blessing to the land and the next generation, by an attentive, judicious, and virtuous performance of the duties of domestic life, and still fewer are possessed of that adorning which the word of God almost exclusively recommends.—Hengstenberg: Humility is the mother of confidence ( Psalm 144:1-4).—J. F. M.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Psalms 144:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/psalms-144.html. 1857-84.

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